Later we were told that I had sepsis, a severe response to an infection which causes inflammation throughout the whole body and attacks the tissues and organs. In about one third of cases, the cause of the infection is unknown. I was one of those cases. Septic shock is the most extreme stage of sepsis and leads to death in fifty percent of cases.I spent the following week in Intensive Care. Collapsed lungs and pneumonia slowed my recovery. After two days of forced bed-rest and constant oxygen I was allowed to attempt walking with a frame. It took a few more days before I could move around without support. My whole lower body swelled so much my skin hurt. I wore long pressure stockings and shuffled slowly around the ward, trying to improve circulation. All the toxins which had flooded my system caused ongoing muscle pain and weakness; even the simplest of tasks caused major fatigue. Once I returned home, we were flooded with offers of support. My mum flew down from Sydney followed by one of my sisters to help keep our household running. Dozens of friends provided meals for our family. It felt strange to be so frail. Every little milestone was cause for celebration – sleeping on my side, walking to the mailbox, squatting to get something out of the cupboard and managing to pull myself up again. After three months, I could last a whole day without sleeping in the afternoon. It took nine months before I could manage without a lie down. Several doctors had tried to tell me how severely ill I’d been but I found it hard to fathom. It was my surgeon who finally opened my eyes at a follow-up appointment a month after the illness. For a fleeting moment he stopped his medical reflections, dropped his professional tone and told me, “I went home that night and said to my wife, ‘We had a mother of four in today and she nearly died.’” My eyes brimmed with tears. I knew I could have died but didn’t realise I’d come so very close. Today I celebrate five years of ‘bonus life’. There are so many ‘ifs’ in my experience which could have led to a very different result: If we hadn’t opted to go to hospital. . . If I hadn’t known the admissions nurse . . . If emergency had been very busy and there were less people available to help. . . If the staff had taken longer to form a diagnosis (many people have died from such a delay) . . . If people hadn’t bothered to pray when they heard I was sick . . . Yet the God Who reigns over the ‘ifs’ put everything in place to make sure my life was spared. He knew the days on earth He had planned for me and made sure they were not cut short. The words in Psalm 31:14-15, “My times are in Your hands,” are a tangible reality to me now, a source of clarity and focus. Every day is a gift to be received with thanks and lived to the full. God had a specific purpose in mind when He created me. My greatest desire and joy is to fulfil it. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Last winter I held my father-in-law while he took his final raspy breaths. My hair hung in his face as I stroked his balding head and planted trembling, tear-drenched lips on his forehead … over and over and over. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He was Grandpa to our children, the first grandparent to live near enough to visit every week. We’d only had him around for four years. Surely it wasn’t time for him to go yet.
Two winters ago I almost died. Sepsis – an unknown killer that masquerades as a virus – sent me into a nasty downward spiral. Hours stretched long as weakness and pain intensified, dragging me steadily to the end of my strength. Just as I ran out of fight, the process was halted. A myriad of kind hospital staff, fervent prayers and soft, warm blankets worked together to quietly but firmly pull me back from the brink.
Doctors told me later how close things had been. I’d almost stepped through the veil into the heavenly realms. Part of me longed to know what that was like, to enter right into the fullness and wonder of God’s presence. The other part sighed with relief. I was still here to love and care for my family. Most of all I struggled to comprehend that my life had almost ended.
Was I really that frail?
The following days in ICU taught me how very fragile I was. The littlest tasks were either impossible or left me exhausted and breathless. Reality stared me in the face: I wasn’t the strong woman I’d always imagined myself to be. In a matter of moments everything could change. Or even end.
Those old, familiar, time-worn words echoed their truth loudly in my heart, “Life is a gift.”
I’ve known the wonder – four times – of clutching a warm, wet newborn to my breast, my heart beating in sync with theirs as my eyes drank in every inch of their perfection. Such miracles.
I’ve been overwhelmed by sorrow as I cradled the beautiful, lifeless form of a precious nephew, hello and goodbye tears streaming, mingled, from my eyes. Such heartbreak.
Each of us follows a winding path through the years we spend on earth. We can’t always see what’s around the corner. On we travel through various seasons, some of great joy and some of deep sorrow, many which seem ordinary and insignificant. Through it all one truth remains the same.
We don’t have forever.
Our life on earth is transient. The miracle of conception marks its beginning and death its end.
Somehow I lost sight of this.
Somehow I believed I had unlimited years to follow God’s plan for me. There was time, I thought, to waft off-track chasing glistening, empty bubbles, just for the sheer pleasure of it. Surely those higher pursuits could wait a while.
There will come a time when each of us will take our last raspy breath. None of us know exactly when that day will be. Standing in God’s presence, we’ll have opportunity to look back and reflect on the path we’ve walked. Will we have regrets? Will we be satisfied? Will we wish we could go back and do things differently?
Hindsight is a wonderful teacher. But there will come a day when it’s too late to change course. Our life on earth will have reached its end. Now is the time to pause and consider the way we’re walking through our days.
King Solomon once said, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” (Proverbs 14:8)
Prudence, better known as good sense, is not out-of-date. If we will only take time to reflect and make necessary changes, we can live a life that has no regrets. Isn’t that what we all want…really?
This life we’ve been given is a treasure indeed. Let’s not waste it.